Ten teeth by Dr. Ronny Leder
Ten teeth … just ten teeth … this is all after a long day of field work in the marine sediments of the Leipzig embayment south of my home town Leipzig, in the heart of Germany. Now a recreational area composed as a landscape of several post mining lakes, the brown coal field of Leipzig was once one of the biggest in the world and a source of information for generations of geologists and paleontologists all over the world. It is as hard to find good fossils there like it ever was. Back in the 20th century scientists were able to investigate huge excavations and fresh cuts nearly every day, but now just a few points at the embankment of the post mining lakes are left to collect fossils. However, it is not collecting at all, it is moving tons of sediments, screen washing them over a cascade of sieves with different mesh size, managing the water flow with bilge pumps and searching for fossil under the scope. 1000 blanks and one winner. Ten teeth, just ten shark teeth after washing two tons of sediment.
Now this, this fossil supersaturated sediment from localities I had heard of from stories by my mentor at the University of Leipzig, Prof. Müller. “Lee Creek Mine” – those three words always sounded like fossil shark teeth heaven to me and now I’m here, standing in the middle of a huge pile of fossil marine shells, bones and teeth, exited like a kid digging for his first fossils. Lee Creek Mine – that means more fossil content than waste, hard to decide what to focus on, ten teeth – sure but please after ten seconds. Hah, not a problem at all. I was just thinking: it’s not fair, it’s that easy, it’s that overwhelming. Even though the mine is no longer accessible since 2008, the couple of truckloads of sediment the mining company was donating for the Aurora Fossil Festival was more than enough to make me feel happy, playing with the stuff I love so much.
Then as if this wasn’t enough the famous Calvert Cliffs were awaiting for me just one day later at the Calvert Marine Museum Conference. Are you serious? This is how paleontological work can also look? Walking along the beach, the water lapping around your feet, stoop here and there and grabbing just for the next amazing fossil. Whale bones, tons of scallops and shark teeth all in extraordinary preservation. Those guys working at the Calvert Marine Museum are so blessed with that outstanding fossil site and yes, they know it – I could see it in their smiling faces. What an experience and yes Prof. Müller’s stories were truth – this is just great! I was collecting sharks’ teeth, for the first time in my life at secondly intervals, here a Physo there a Leucas, next is a Snaggletooth … and then Victor’s nice finding … can’t believe it. Need to make a decision: ten teeth after two tons or after ten seconds?
I go along with the ten seconds and will definitely come back for more, more than just ten …
On the Road to Fossil Gold by Victor Perez
As Ronny expressed above, this trip was very exciting and full of great fossil finds, starting off at the Belgrade Mine in New Bern, North Carolina. We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to scour the spoil piles in the mine. These spoil piles were a hodge-podge of stratigraphic horizons, ranging from Oligocene through the Pleistocene. Fossil finds included a rich and diverse array of sharks and stingrays, occasional sawfish rostral elements and crocodile teeth, and the rare occurrences of terrestrial mammal remains. The fun continued as we travelled on to Aurora, North Carolina for the Aurora Fossil Festival. Ronny and I went straight to the truckloads of matrix taken out of the famed Lee Creek Mine. Along with most other paleontology enthusiasts, we had been mystified by the shark-tooth rich fantasy land known as Lee Creek. Before the end of the festival, Ronny and I decided to bring back a little bit of this historic matrix in order to screen the material for the rich microfossil fauna. We’re eager to explore what more exciting finds this sediment may hold.
On Sunday May 24th, our journey brought us further north to Solomons, Maryland. Ronny Leder, Lisa Lundgren, John Nance, and I promptly headed to Seahorse Beach on the southern end of the Calvert Cliffs. This locality is best known for its dense shell beds, occasional starfish, and fossil pine cones. John Nance quickly found a Bull Shark tooth, a cetacean vertebra, and later found a fossil pine cone as well. On Monday, we took our first conference field trip out to Camp Conoy, a locality along the Calvert Cliffs situated between the Nuclear Power Plant and Calvert Cliffs State Park. 38 people went out on this field trip and everyone found numerous fossils, including 5 Megalodon teeth. The smallest and largest of the five are imaged below. Later that night, many of us gathered together at the Calvert Marine Museum to show off our finds, which led to some very interesting discussions. On Tuesday May 26th, we split into two groups with half going to Parker’s Creek and half going to Plum Point, two more popular fossil collecting sites along the Calvert Cliffs. Unfortunately, the winds were pushing the water towards the cliff, which left little beach exposed to collect and strong waves crashing on the shore. Even so, interesting fossils including a large crocodile tooth and a stingray scute, among other things, were found.
In both North Carolina and Maryland, we were all brought together by our shared interested in paleontology. It is always uplifting to meet so many like-minded people that find joy in exploration. Numerous people brought out fossils from various other past destinations and shared their exciting stories of discovery. I met so many people that I will undoubtedly stay in contact with and hopefully collaborate with in the future. This was an amazing experience that won’t easily be topped.
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